Mapping CO2 emissions for the entire USA

From NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY

With intense wildfires in the western U.S. and frequent, intense hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, the nation is again affected by extreme weather-related events resulting from climate change. In response, cities, states and regions across the country are developing policies to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide (CO2). Even though many state and local governments are committed to these goals, however, the emissions data they have to work with is often too general and too expensive to provide a useful baseline and target the most effective policy.

Figure 1. Vulcan v3.0 FFCO2 emissions (tC/km2/year) for the United States in year 2011 at 1-km resolution. Source: Figure 3(a) in Gurney et al., 2020.

Professor Kevin Gurney of Northern Arizona University’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems today published results in the Journal of Geophysical Research detailing greenhouse gas emissions across the entire U.S. landscape at high space- and time-resolution with details on economic sector, fuel and combustion process.

Gurney, who specializes in atmospheric science, ecology and public policy, has spent the past several years developing a standardized system, as part of the Vulcan Project, that quantifies and visualizes greenhouse gases emitted across the entire country down to individual power plants, neighborhoods and roadways, identifying problem areas and enabling better decisions about where to cut emissions most effectively. Leading up to the nationwide study, Gurney produced emissions maps of several different large cities, including the Los Angeles megacity, Indianapolis, the Washington, D.C./Baltimore metropolitan area and Salt Lake City.

Funded by NASA, Gurney developed the high-resolution emissions map as an effective tool for scientific and policy applications. His goal is to provide policymakers across the nation with a means to strategically address problem areas instead of taking an inefficient, costly approach.

“We’re providing U.S. policymakers at national, state and local scales with a scalpel instead of a hammer. Policies that might be relevant to California are possibly less relevant for Chicago or New York. They need to have information that reflects their unique conditions but follows a rigorous, standardized scientific approach. In this way, they can have confidence in the numbers which, in turn, will stimulate smart investment in reducing emissions.”

One of the strengths of Gurney’s approach is validation by atmospheric monitoring of CO2 from ground-based and satellite instruments.

“By synthesizing the detail of building and road-scale emissions with the independence and accuracy of atmospheric monitoring,” Gurney said, “we have the best possible estimate of emissions with the most policy-relevant detail.”

An animated video of the Vulcan Project output is available online.

Through characterization of CO2 emissions across the entire US landscape every kilometer, from coast to coast, Gurney points out that the system offers every US city an inventory on emissions. “By extracting all cities in the US from our data product, we can offer every city a consistent and comprehensive assessment of their emissions. Like the US weather forecasting system, this problem is best solved with a single systemic approach and shared with city stakeholders so they can do what they know how to do better than anyone – reduce emissions in ways that meet their individual needs.” Gurney said.

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Data from the Vulcan mapping project is available on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Data Archive. Additional imagery is available on the Vulcan website. This research was made possible through support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration grant NNX14AJ20G and the NASA Carbon Monitoring System program, Understanding User Needs for Carbon Information project (subcontract 1491755).

The paper: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2020JD032974

55 thoughts on “Mapping CO2 emissions for the entire USA

    • But they reversed the colors so you can’t tell. If you change colors, the map is useful for seeing where people would pay climate-salvation tax, and where the tax would be spent.

    • bingo! It’s all the fault of those horrible people in Chicago, New York and California. And then, to top it off they’re starting fires Left, Lefter and center-Left.

    • “Are you sure this isn’t the “where progressives live” map”

      Are you sure that the map trends wouldn’t largely flip if it were of tc/year/person? I’m not. It would then be a “where regressives live” map….

      • “It actually just appears to be a map of where the people live.”

        +1

        Not perfect, but pf close…..

    • Because the OCO2 data shows both anthropogenic and natural CO2 mixed together. The latter tends to overwhelm the former.

    • Jere
      There are several good reasons for not using the OCO2 data and one of them is that the graphical summary of the data does not seem to have been published since the first few months of the project . But there is another more obvious reason : the data obtained in this report is for CO2 emissions , does not , so far as I can see (it is open access) contain any estimates of absorption of CO2 whilst the satellite data would be of the resultant CO2 concentrations arising from both emission and absorption.

    • Do they really avoid OCO2 data? Their website indicates that they only track fossil fuel consumption.

    • It appears that Colorado (specifically Denver) is the blueprint for CO2 reduction ….

      (Or did you Coloradans give this guy some form of protection money to avoid the scalpel)

  1. “We’re providing U.S. policymakers at national, state and local scales with a scalpel instead of a hammer.” What if the patient does not need surgery?

    • Doesn’t matter if you need surgery or no.

      “In this way, they can have confidence in the numbers which, in turn, will stimulate smart investment in reducing emissions.”

      Your surgery is defined as an investment … a smart investment. Whether or not you need it doesn’t matter; it is the smart thing to do.

  2. Interesting that Ohio seems to be over all the reddest of the larger states. One would expect that the I-95 corridor would show a streak of red as it does. That blue patch in North PA is where “The Wilds” are, which is an extensive series of interconnected national forests and parks. I would suggest that the red around the Buffalo area is probably not an accurate presentation because it is right across from the heavily industrialized areas in Canada of Toronto, Burlington, Hamilton etc. And I’m kinda surprised that southern Maine is so red.

  3. “Gurney, who specializes in atmospheric science, ecology and public policy, has spent the past several years developing a standardized system, as part of the Vulcan Project, that quantifies and visualizes greenhouse gases emitted across the entire country down to individual power plants, neighborhoods and roadways, identifying problem areas and enabling better decisions about where to cut emissions most effectively”

    Gurney, who probably has an obscure qualification in interpretive dance, has wasted a lot of time and taxpayers money pretending to understand background noise in the carbon cycle.

    FIFY

      • Hey! Governments have the difficult job of spending hundreds of billions of dollars without any economic benefit being accomplished whatsoever. There are lots of jobs like this and they are creating hundreds more every day. tough non-job but somebody has to do it, I guess.

    • Really challenging to google him and find his qualifications.

      •PhD, Ecology, Colorado State University, 2004
      •MPP, Public Policy, University of California-Berkeley, 1996
      •MS, Atmospheric Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1990
      •BA, Physics, University of California-Berkeley, 1986

      • So what you can work for that would be you typical life long uni student who wouldn’t know what real life and a real job looks like.

      • The public policy degree tells what his interests are. The others were incidental .
        The 18 year gap between a BA in 1986 and a PhD. 2004 is unusual.

  4. The particular county I live in apparently has dirty air, but the next county over, about a mile down the road, doesn’t.
    I’m amazed that pollution can detect geo-political lines so well.

  5. The study seems to be well organised into the various caterories of emission source from fossil fuel use and cement production (don’t think biomass was include but in the period considered , 2011-2015, that may have been less signifiant than it is now) and meticulously analysed.
    Interesting that one of the conclusions is that the US has reduced its CO2 emission rate in terms of MtC/year from 1638.9 to 1544.3. Take a bow America , you seem to have achieved,up to the eve of the Paris Agreement, what those oh- so-holy signatories have so far failed to achieve subsequently.

    • It’s worse than that. The CO2 monitoring station in Hawaii showed no dip in the amount of CO2, in the atmosphere, during the pandemic shut down of the worlds biggest CO2 emitters.

  6. He could have saved himself a lot time. There are lots of US population density maps on the internet. LOL

  7. Some little while ado, some scientists collaborated with a farmer in SW Scotland. Not far from my old patch.

    Farmer said he was going to plough one of his fields and scientists could come and plant CO2 flux gauges in said field, for at least 12 months.
    Being SW Scotland,the weather went a bit pear shaped – farmer could nether plant his field with a new grass crop nor could the scientists recover their equipments#, lest all should disappear into a quagmire/mud-bath.

    Gauges thus recorded 2 years of CO2 data from the bare-soil ploughed field
    They recorded 10 tonnes per acre of CO2 leaving the field for BOTH years.

    That dear friends equates to nearly 2500 tonnes per square kilometre per year.
    And thus muppets picture tops out at 300 tonnes

    The production of ‘food’ is causing the CO2 – ‘food’ being starch which when ran through the hideous business of processing becomes (glucose) sugar.
    The stuff that rots teeth, minds AND bodies with equal facility.
    Rapidly followed by politics, personal relationships, science, medicine while requiring its consumers to endure nearly 50 vaccinations before they’re 5 years old, nutrient and vitamin deficient and wide-open to any tin-pot little virus that happens along.

    Trouble is, there is now pretty well nothing else to eat bar starch.
    Even worse is that all the cultivation & growing of same is driving land temperatures up while the warm winds thus created blow out to sea.
    In the child-like vision all scientists now seem to have, especially when dazzled not only by their own brilliance but also The Technology, they think the ocean is also warming up.

    The Nail In The Coffin is that, the trashed, broken and demented brains actually believe that eating ever more starch and that *everyone* should be *forced* to eat it and nothing else will fix the woes created by their own Magical Thinking i.e. Obesity, cancer, dementia AND Climate Change

    So there actually are positive feedbacks and as everyone reading this *should* know, positively fed back systems *always* destroy themselves.

  8. I looked over this one closely, to see whether it looked more like a map of farmland, where many poisons kill everything alive but the desired plant, turning soil carbon into atmospheric carbon; or industrial areas.

    It is very much more industry.

    But soil carbon levels are declining, and soils can hold truly massive amounts of carbon.

    So I think the CO2 is coming from fossils in the first place, but the reason it is staying around is because we will not let soil organisms do their job.

    I do wonder about methods–would this research have detected farm soil emissions?

  9. They need to have information that reflects their unique conditions but follows a rigorous, standardized scientific approach. In this way, they can have confidence in the numbers which, in turn, will stimulate smart investment in reducing emissions.”

    Aren’t these two paragraphs oxymoronic?

    Isn’t the hypothesis of CO2 being the control knob for Earth’s temperature still only that, conjecture at best and not ‘scientifically’ proven?

    What is a ‘rigorous standardized’ scientific approach’? Perhaps with Mannian splicing rather than the normal understanding of same.

    Disclosure – I am not a scientist of any discipline but I perceive pre-conceived results and Kool Aid drinking in this study

  10. In September nearly one million acres burned in Oregon’s west-side Cascade forests. These were some of the most productive (and well-stocked with mature timber) forests in the world. At least 50 bbf (billion board feet) were burned over.

    I estimate greenhouse gas emissions were 80 metric tons per acre, or 80 million metric tons from all the fires. In context, the OR-DEQ estimates total annual emissions from all human economic sectors combined is 60-70 million metric tons. Thus one week of fires emitted more greenhouse gases than all human activities state-wide for a year. Not all biomass was combusted, however. Over the next 25 years an additional 250 million metric tons will be released from decay of the killed but not consumed vegetation. Taking into account all Oregon forest fires over the last 25 years, as much as 55 million metric tons of greenhouse gases are emitted every year in Oregon from decay of fire-killed vegetation — nearly as much as total state-wide human emissions.

  11. “With intense wildfires in the western U.S. and frequent, intense hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, the nation is again affected by extreme weather-related events resulting from climate change. In response, cities, states and regions across the country are developing policies to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide (CO2).”
    The bad weather is the result of climate change so we are making policies to reduce emissions of CO2. The logic here assumes that CO2 emissions cause bad weather and that the bad weather can be changed into benign weather by reducing emissions. The author can’t show that CO2 emissions from humans changes the atmospheric concentration of CO2 or that atmospheric CO2 changes effect the temperature so how does he calculate the cost-benefit ratio of the policies enacted on this precise emissions data?

    • Biden has already promised to sell it to China to help pay for the GND here. But we’ll stay at 50 states with D.C.
      Hawaiians are going to need to learn Mandarin in the re-education centers alongside the Uighyrs.

  12. From the article: “With intense wildfires in the western U.S. and frequent, intense hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, the nation is again affected by extreme weather-related events resulting from [Human-caused] climate change.”

    Wrong! There is no evidence that human-caused climate change is real.

  13. With much greater DOE funding and more supercomputing power they will be able to detect and report on the backyard BBQ grill of their political targets.

  14. How would a local policymaker use this “carbon footprint” map? Kill half the people in the major cities, then force the remainder to the countryside to be hunter gatherers?

    So city planners and town councils see that the local cement plant is emitting proportionately more CO2. Shut it down. Except that they could no longer build roads, buildings or other infrastructure. Auto plant or widget factory a hot spot? Shut it down and send the manufacturing, emissions and jobs to China.

    The whole premise of this project is that emissions are a “problem” rather than an indication of a vibrant, active economy offering health, sanitation, relative wealth and comfort to the general population. For such a smart, well-educated man, Dr. Gurney doesn’t seem to have a grasp on reality. As has been well-documented in the pages of WUWT, emissions are a modest concern at most, and the only logical, societal-scale energy transition should be a gradual, multi-decadal transition to natural gas and thence to nuclear, along with gradual improvements in efficient use of resources. Wind, solar and biomass/biofuels are a high impact, poor-performing and essentially useless side-show. To the extent that emissions due to combustion and land use change are a concern, that is largely a challenge for developing nations.

    • The ridiculous part of the project is that everyone knows the emissions come from intensively developed high population density areas. At the same time urban planners are create more multifamily housing to increase population densities. The high population density advocates will be competing with “ depopulation” programs .

  15. Boggles the mind that researchers systematically ignore Svensmark-Zharkova’s empirically demonstrated postulate (2007 – 2018) that cosmic radiation driven by fluctuating solar magnetic fields (SMFs) affects cloud-cover, impelling decades-long planetary temperatures (not “climate”).

    Speaking of academic/professional defaults, from December 2017 Australian researcher Robert Holmes’ “Mean Molar Mass version of the Ideal Gas Law” has definitively stated that global atmospheric surface temperatures (GAST) of any –repeat, any– planet = PM/Rp, where P = Atmospheric Pressure times M = Mean Molar Mass over R = Atmospheric Density times Gas Constant p. Since CO2 is not a factor, no “greenhouse gas” effect applies.

    In thus refuting AGW legates’ “carbon footprint” pasquinade, Holmes’ Law negates these Luddite primitivists’ central anti-“fossil fuel” (sic) premise. Svensmark-Zharkova and Holmes aside, for the first time since the pre-Cambrian Ediacaran Period (635 – 541 mm YBP), from the late Pliocene 3.6 mm YBP Earth’s continental plate-tectonic dispositions have blocked global atmospheric/oceanic circulation patterns by walling off Eastern from Western hemispheres, inducing cyclical 102-kiloyear glaciations interspersed with median 12,250-year interstadial remissions.

    For the record, skewed by the 1,500-year Younger Dryas “cold shock” Earth’s latest Holocene Interglacial Epoch ended 12,250 + 3,500 – 14,400 = AD 1350, succeeded by a 70-year Grand Solar Minimum (AD 1350 – 1420) plus a 500-year Little Ice Age from 1350 to 1850/1890. Following a 140-year “amplitude compression” rebound to AD 2030, Earth’s 7.5 billion souls face a looming Pleistocene chill-phase due to cover 60% of habitable landmasses with ice-sheets two miles thick.

  16. I would prefer to see a map of CO2 per population

    and maybe a map of CO2 per GDP % or similar.

    That is, what do you get in return for the CO2 you emit?

    • “I would prefer to see a map of CO2 per population”

      +1

      Astute. And quite inconvenient for them. It would show trends 180 out from what they so fervently wish to show.

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